A Year of Kent Gourmet with Andy McLeish
IT’S CHRISTMAS…well not quite yet. We still have over a month to go but you may be fooled into thinking it was with all the sparkly lights and decorations on the high streets and the oversized turkeys on the supermarket shelves. Christmas is a special time for me. It was actually the first time I knew I wanted to become a chef. I was around six or seven and one year my mum was too ill to make Christmas day lunch and was advised by her doctor to stay in bed and rest. So it was up to my dad to take care of it. The problem was his cooking skills were very limited, so my brother and I set about the task ourselves. We decided to prepare and cook the lunch and did everything from the turkey, spuds, vegetables and even the gravy. I remember the food was too heavy for us to carry, so we wheeled it on my skateboard into our parents’ bedroom.
It’s strange looking back now, but I remember feeling such a great sense of achievement and I actually enjoyed making the meal for my family. From then on, I got the cooking bug and knew I wanted to work inside a professional kitchen.
Christmas should be the time of year where you relax, eat great food, drink fine wine and share special moments with family and friends. Unfortunately, for many people it’s the time of the year they dread the most. Crowded high streets, unbearable queues in shops, long hours in the kitchen and knee deep in presents to wrap. Before you know it, it’s over and you haven’t enjoyed it one bit.
This year I say to you, “what’s the point?” It’s time you enjoy your Christmas. Grant
ed, I can’t help with your presents for Uncle John or Nana Mary, but I can definitely help with making things easier in the kitchen.
My recipe this month is roasted pheasant with pancetta, chestnut stuffing, roast potatoes, parsnips, Brussels sprouts and cranberry sauce. It’s a fantastic Christmas meal for those who want a delicious alternative to turkey. However, if you want to keep things traditional then look no further than our very own, local turkey farm, Appledore Turkeys. This is certainly the Rolls Royce of turkeys and of the highest quality. This year, I wanted to find a perfect local supplier who could provide my restaurant, Chapter One, with excellent turkeys throughout the festive season and I’m happy to say I found Appledore Turkey Farm.
If you ever have a ‘moment’ in the kitchen this Christmas, just remember my story, a boy of six cooking Christmas lunch for his family. If I could do it then, then I’m certainly sure you can too.
Happy Christmas and all the best for the New Year!
Roasted pheasant with pancetta, chestnut stuffing, roast potatoes, parsnips, Brussels sprouts and cranberry sauce
2 hen pheasants
20 thin slices of pancetta
300g sausage meat
1 small onion chopped and cooked in butter
10g chopped sage
50g cooked chestnuts
200g Brussels sprouts
500g peeled roasting potatoes (we use Lovers potatoes)
50g flaked almonds
50g melted butter
50g duck fat
To make the chestnut stuffing combine the sausage meat with the cooked onion, sage and chopped chestnuts, then season with salt and pepper. Roll the stuffing into eight equal balls but leave two tablespoons of the mix aside. Roll each stuffing ball in the flaked almonds and set aside.
Now it’s time to start on the roast potatoes. Peel and cut the potatoes into suitable sizes. Place in a pan of salted water and bring to the boil and ensure to boil rapidly for 3-4 mins. Next, remove from the pan and drain and let the potatoes steam dry on a cloth.
To prepare the pheasant for the oven, remove the wishbone from the bird and then stuff the neck cavity with two tablespoons of the stuffing and pull the neck skin over to cover. Neatly place the pancetta over the breasts of the pheasant and then brush the whole bird with melted butter.
Heat a large roasting tray on top of the stove and add a spoonful of duck fat and then the boiled potatoes for roasting and cover all over. Place the pheasant onto the same tray and put in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees for 25 – 30 mins. The pheasant must be cooked through but not overcooked, if it is a little pink that is absolutely fine.
Now peel and quarter the parsnips and place in another roasting tray with the duck fat, as well as the stuffing balls and roast in the oven at 200 degrees for about 15-20 mins until the parsnips are golden brown and the stuffing balls are cooked through.
Meanwhile steam the Brussels sprouts for 5 mins until cooked through but not too soft.
Place the pheasant on a large platter with the roast potatoes, parsnips and vegetables around. Have a generous amount of cranberry sauce on the side and serve to your guests and all tuck in.
Follow Andy on Twitter: @andy23471 or visit: www.chaptersrestaurants.com